Delhi High Court Challenges Notification Mandating Married Women’s Surname Change

mandating married women's surname
Image courtesy: shethepeople

A recent development has seen the Delhi High Court questioning a controversial notification that obligates married women to obtain a non-objection certificate from their spouse to retain their maiden surname. Divya Modi, the petitioner, contested the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs‘ directive, which requires married women to furnish either a divorce decree or a non-objection certificate from their husband to retain their maiden surname.

Modi’s plea contends that the notification is inherently discriminatory, arbitrary, and infringes upon fundamental rights enshrined in Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution. She argues that the notification imposes disproportionate requirements solely on women, constituting a clear gender bias and violating their right to equality, freedom of expression, and personal liberty.

The petitioner highlights that the notification, titled “Change of Name (Major & Minor),” unfairly restricts women’s freedom of expression and personal identity by mandating spousal consent or a divorce decree. By subjecting women to additional and burdensome conditions compared to men seeking a name change, the notification unjustly discriminates against them.

Moreover, Modi contends that the requirement of a divorce decree introduces arbitrary delays, hindering women’s prompt exercise of their right to choose their name under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. She argues that linking the name change process to the resolution of legal matters places undue burdens on individuals awaiting judicial decisions.

In response to Modi’s petition, the Delhi High Court, presided over by a two-judge bench comprising Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora, has issued a notice to the Union of India through the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. The court has scheduled a further hearing on May 28, 2024, indicating its seriousness in examining the constitutional validity of the contentious notification.

The legal challenge brought forth by Divya Modi underscores the broader societal debate surrounding gender equality and individual autonomy. The outcome of this case has the potential to set a significant precedent regarding the rights of married women to retain their maiden surname without undue interference or discrimination.

Re-reported from the article originally published in The shethepeople

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